Midway Planners Field Complaints from Businesses on Closures of Left Turn Lanes

by on December 4, 2018 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

Owners Claim Businesses Hurt by City’s Closures and Lack of Notice

By Geoff Page

The Midway Pacific Community Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, November 28, was a perfect example of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”  It also illustrated what happens when the community does not pay attention to its local planning board.

By all accounts, the Midway group did a good thing when it asked the city look at left turn pockets on Camino Del Rio West at Moore Street.  The request was the result of a community member asking the board to do something about the turn because it appeared to be unsafe.  The board did exactly what planning boards do and forwarded the request to the city without taking a position on it, leaving it to the traffic engineers to provide an answer. The city’s response was to close off the left turn pockets to north and south Moore Street putting an end to the claimed safety problem.

That all sounds very good on the face of it but judging by the angry collection of business owners that crowded the Midway meeting, the solution was not agreeable to all.

Midway business owners urge city to remove orange pylons. All photos by Geoff Page.

The main complaint from the audience was that they received no notice of this action and the change has made it very difficult for their clients.  The business owners said they would have protested this action had they known anything about it and they were heaping blame on the planning board for not letting them know it was happening.

The chair, Cathy Kenton, patiently explained how planing boards work.  She explained how the planning boards advertise their meetings as required by the city and the Ralph M. Brown Act.  She explained that the subject was brought before the board and there were public discussions about it at their meetings when people had a chance to speak up.  Unfortunately, most people have no idea what a planning board is and, truthfully, the notice provisions could use some beefing up.

All that is required for notice is to post the agenda 72 hours in advance at the meeting site and send a copy to the city where it is placed on-line.  But, the meetings were at the community college buildings on Kemper St., not a place frequented by the general public and few people even know about the city’s website. During this reporter’s time as chair of the PCPB, a notice was always placed in the Peninsula Beacon paper and, while that that helped some, most of the community remained ignorant of the planning board’s actions unless they were directly affected.

Eventually, Kenton managed to calm the audience by getting them to understand the process.  There were complaints that no one gave them any notice of this traffic change and Kenton explained that was the city’s responsibility. The planning board does not have the resources to do this and it was not part of the planning board’s responsibility.

It did appear that the city messed up by not even contacting any of the businesses that would be affected by blocking off the turns.  Members of the audience asked if the pylons could be removed for now while a solution is worked out, to which Kenton explained they would have to approach the city.  It was pointed out that the big problem was that someone told the city these turns were unsafe.  Once the city receives a safety complaint, they are on the liability hook.  If they don’t do something and someone is hurt, an enterprising attorney can use that against the city.  This would be the same problem with removing the pylons that are in place now.

What is not known is what accident data was available to the city in making its decision.  It appeared that the planning board’s involvement was only to forward the concern to the city and the city took it from there.  To their credit, the Midway board agreed to help with the fallout from blocking the turns and offered to assist the business owners going forward by arranging a meeting with the city’s traffic engineer.  It is easy to see what a disruption this caused because getting to some businesses is much more difficult now with the one-way streets in the area and the traffic volume.  This one is clearly not over because it looks like the livelihood of some businesses has been seriously damaged.

Community Plan Update

Vicki White from the city’s Planning Department related that the Midway-Pacific Community Plan had its second reading before City Council on October 13 and 30 days after that the new zoning became effective.  A question was asked about whether or not the city informed property owners of the new zoning and White said that was not done.  It is possible a few property owners, who did not pay attention to the community plan update, will be upset about the new zoning as well.  Time will tell.  The plan was in the works for many years so anyone complaining will have less of a leg to stand on than the businesses affected by the turn closures.

White explained that the Midway-Pacific by-laws changes will be looked at next.  White also explained that she will be pulling back from her participation now that the community plan update was finished.  White said her “subordinate,” who she also referred to as her “minion” would be attending the meetings from now on.  She mentioned Nathan Causman as the new contact who introduced himself at the last OB Planning Board meeting.

Impact Fee Study

The agenda contained a 45-minute block of time to discuss the Midway Impact Fee Study.  This was de-railed because of the extended discussion of closed off turn pockets.  The Impact Fee Study is a lengthy list of possible infrastructure projects in the Midway area over the next several decades.  The city wants the board to prioritize the projects based on their opinions of what is needed the most.  The fees are collected on developments and go into a fund to be used locally within the Midway area.  The development fees will never be enough to fund any projects but will go toward projects with the bulk of the funding coming from elsewhere.

The board decided to devote a whole Special Meeting to finish its list of priorities that will be held at 3:00 p.m. on December 5 at the Urban Core offices on Jefferson Street where the Midway board now meets.  Anyone wishing to provide priority suggestions is welcome to do so, the chair has the list. (Email her – cathy@kentonproperties.com.)

According to Angela Abeyta from the city’s Facilities Financing department, the Department of Finance now runs the show on how the funds are used. This was described as a new process.  Abeyta mentioned an advisory committee with the city called Capital Improvements Program Review and Advisory Committee or CIPRAC, , that would be useful for anyone wishing to know more about the process for deciding on capital improvements.  There is also a document called “A Citizen’s Guide to the Capital Improvements Program: Quick Look, that can be found here

New Panera Restaurant

The last bit of news is that a new Panera Restaurant will be located at 3711 Sports Arena Blvd.  The existing building will be demolished and a new one constructed.


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